Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2019

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Strip shooting survivors, lifesavers reunite as Oct. 1 anniversary approaches

Strip Mass Shooting

John Locher / AP

Amanda Peterson, right, embraces nurse Marlena Ryan during a reunion event for victims of the Oct. 1 shooting and their health care providers at Sunrise Hospital, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in Las Vegas. Ryan helped take care of Peterson after she was injured in the mass shooting.

Stories of survivors transported to the hospital in pickup trucks, doctors and nurses working around the clock and other heroic details from the Oct. 1 mass shooting were recounted today by those who lived through the tragedy.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center hosted a reunion for more than 100 people — hospital staffers, first responders and victims — whose lives were forever changed when a gunman opened fire on a Strip country music festival, killing 58 people and leaving more than 800 injured.

“It was our greatest privilege to intervene in the tragic aftermath of 1 October,” said Todd Sklamberg, chief executive officer at Sunrise. “We’re here to commemorate the strength of our community, the strength of our survivors and the commitment of our caregivers and responders.”

Those who gathered today still deal with the physical and emotional scars of the shooting but have sought to turn a negative into a positive. People whose lives crossed paths in the most tragic of ways have formed lifelong bonds.

Dominica Zeolla, a Los Angeles native, was at the concert with friends when she was shot in the back. The bullet — fired from the 32nd floor of a hotel tower across the street — pierced her lung, and she arrived at the hospital in grave condition.

The doctor’s and nurses at Sunrise saved her life. She spent more than two weeks in the hospital and befriended many of the staff members.

“I started to follow (the nurses) on social media,” she said. I didn’t want to leave, because they were just awesome. It’s amazing to be back here and amazing to walk down the hallways again where I could barely walk before. Now I’m power walking down the hallways laughing.”

Dwayne Taylor, a new hospital employee, wasn’t even supposed to start work until Oct. 2. But when he heard about the shooting, he volunteered to jump in immediately.

“He didn’t know anyone’s name, but he took control of things and basically orchestrated the provision of (surgical) instruments,” said Dr. Nick Fiore, a pediatric surgeon.

A military surgical tech during the Gulf War, Taylor’s battlefield experience came into play as casualties poured into the hospital.

“Just thinking of the battlefield scenario, we pushed everything that was trauma-related to the front of the line and everyone just fell into place,” Taylor said.

Seeing the community come together in the aftermath of the shooting didn’t surprise U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who spoke at the event.

“We showed the rest of the world who we are as Las Vegas and what it means to be Vegas strong,” Cortez Masto said. “It has been a difficult time for all of us...but we will always be there as part of your family.”